Diesel smell in the boat

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Oct 7, 2007
Vessel Make
Bayliner 4550 Pilothouse
So our previous owner seemed ok with having spilt some diesel in the bilge and just leaving it there for a few months. *He was also ok with just letting the leak @ the injector pump leak and not fix it. *He ALSO was ok it seems when he changed the oil to just dump it directly into the bilge (which is isolated beneath the engine) and then suck it up with a small 12v pump. *Crazy to say the least. *All those items were immediately corrected when I bought our boat. *What I am dealing with now though is the diesel smell in the cabin. *I have soaped out the bilge and given it a good cleaning. *No water is standing in the bilge (we have dripless shaft seals). *When I first bought the boat late this summer the smell was pretty strong. *Now, it is slight and doesn't bother me. *What I have noticed though is when I come home from a weekend of a few days on the boat that the clothes have a definite diesel smell to them. *I don't mind as it like it but it drives my wife nuts. *It's not so strong that if you put clothes on and walked down the dock or ate at a restaurant that someone would smell it, but none the less, I need to get rid of the odor. *I feel like I am battling a long period of time on the boat where the seller just let diesel sit in the bilge and the odor just permeated stuff. *I already removed all the beds and bedding when we bought the boat and the only interior softgoods that remained were the salon settee at the dinette. *I've also put a fresh coat of paint on all of the storage lockers (it was old looking anyway). *I air the boat out as much as possible (ok, hard to do that now that it is winter!). *We run the hvac to keep the air cycling. *I have some of the plug in air-freshners in the salon. *Still...that diesel smell is there. *I know obviously that most diesel boats are going to have a slight diesel smell- nature of the beast. *I want to try and eliminate it as much as possible though.Any other tips, ideas, suggestions, insight, on how to remedy this situation?

-- Edited by Woodsong on Thursday 16th of December 2010 04:18:38 PM
If the diesel odor is on your clothes, it's a good bet that the insides of the drawers and hanging lockers are at least a part of the source. And I suspect that the dinette settee cushions are too.

There is a product that will eliminate ANY odor--even smoke and diesel: Pure Ayre http://www.pureayre.com/ I tripped over it several years ago at a boat show in Seattle...brought some home to test, and have been a fan ever since.

You've already done the most important thing in getting rid of any odor...you've eliminated the source. Now we're only left with residual odor that's permeated cushions, lockers, nooks and crannies. To get rid of that, put some PureAyre in a garden pump spray jug spray every inch of inside of the boat with it...making sure to use enough on cushions to penetrate all the way to the middle of the foam from both sides...it does little good to just "dust" the surface with anything if the odor has permeated the whole cushion. Spray the insides and outsides of drawers...etc etc. Then don't rinse...just leave everything open and let it dry for 24 hours. If you still have any remaining odor, you missed a spot.

To get rid of odor in your clothes, put a quart of PureAyre into a washerload of COLD water...let it soak overnight, then launder as usual.

I don't have any connection to this product or the company that makes it. I recommend it 'cuz it WORKS..the only product I've ever found that not only eliminates "organic" (bilge, sewage etc) odors, but also smoke and diesel. And it's approved for use around food, which makes it very safe...and the answer when a shore power failure leaves you with a fridge that stinks from the meat that spoiled in the freezer.
Of course the "marine" Pure Ayre is the most expensive. Do you think the "pet" or "home" versions would work just as well on a boat? I've used the stuff before and I agree it's great, but I don't think they had all those different types.
I've got a "Bilge Buster" ozone generator and it really works. Not cheap but after a week or so no diesel.
Keith wrote:Of course the "marine" Pure Ayre is the most expensive. Do you think the "pet" or "home" versions would work just as well on a boat? I've used the stuff before and I agree it's great, but I don't think they had all those different types.
They claim that the marine formula is stronger...but in my experience the household version works just as well and costs a LOT less.

As for ozone generators... ozone is both highly corrosive and damaging to rubber and flexible PVC (almost all white hoses).* They'are also a health hazard...or would be if they produced enough ozone to actually destroy the sources of odors, which is the only way to eliminate any odor.* Yes, people who've bought them rave do about how well they work. And, yes, the manufacturers do assure you that the ozone concentration is well below that which can present any health hazard.* But if that's true, they can't deliver enough ozone to destroy the sources of any odors. If they did deliver enough ozone to destroy the sources of odors, it should only be necessary to run one occasionally. But among all the people you know who've bought ozone generators, have you ever met anyone who has one who's ever been able to turn if off without having odors return? That should* be enough to tell you that ozone generators are only very expensive air fresheners, because they don't deliver enough ozone to be anything else.* A spray can of Frebreze will accomplish just as much without destroying your hoses and all the rubber parts in your toilets and pumps.

You might want to read what the EPA has to say ozone.* Ozone generators that are sold as air cleaners

-- Edited by HeadMistress on Thursday 16th of December 2010 09:45:07 PM
Thank you VERY much for your suggestion. In looking @ their website it looks like the big box pet store, Petco, carries their product. They have a store location about 10 minutes from our house...I am going to swing by their store tomorrow and pick some up!
You said that we should spray the entire boat from basically top to bottom...do you know if it, typically speaking, will cause any discoloration on any interior teak woodwork? We have teak/holly soles throughout and all of the interior walls are all teak throughout. I will probably due a test spot somewhere out of sight but thought I'd see if you've left it on teak interiors without damage?
Also, I assume also that it should be sprayed not only in the interior but also throughout the bilge, yes? Any chance for damage to hoses, etc. if sprayed down in the bilge?

Thanks again...will be wonderful if we can get the residual odor to go away!!!
I hear you but one of the flaws in your rational is the ozone generators can if in excessive concentrations only harm natural rubber which none of our boats have any more. The rubber made in the last several decades has been synthetic and blended not natural rubber. That is my understanding. As to the fact that they remove the smell when left on or on for most of the time, I have no problem with that. The point is to have the diesel smell gone. Stop all the leaks, clean everything you can (and somethings can't be cleaned like acoustic tiles) then run the ozone generator. It works for me.
I tried the Pure Ayre on Volunteer and while it "sort of " worked it didnt do anything for diesel smell. but a first of summer blast of a commercial ozone generator did a much better job. I never had any negative issues that I know of with ozone.... but I would air out the cabin very well after a treatment... and I didnt hang out in the boat while it was operating. The pure ayre did work on non diesel smells pretty well... and I used a lot of the stuff..
I think any fabrics that have diesel smell need to be replaced(carpet,padding,draperies,headliners,insulation.....)
good luck

-- Edited by hollywood8118 on Thursday 16th of December 2010 11:26:50 PM
In the auto industry.If you were trying to get rid of the smell.We would use a ozone machine.It will take care of cigarette smoke,Diesel,Oil, gasoline,Antifreeze,And even the smell of spoiled milk.As long as whatever was making the vehical smell bad was gone.

If the ozone machine doesn't work for you.The diesel that your smelling.Could be comming from a small leak somewhere.Or a bad venting cap.I would definitely try the ozone machine first.
I tried the Pure Ayre product on the last boat with mixed results.* I finely removed all of the covers on all of the cushions and took them to the laundromat.* Used a large machine with a lot of Oxy Clean.*I layed the foam out on the dock and sprayed it with the Pure Ayre*then let it air dry.*This removed the smell from the cushions but it never really got rid of all of the smell.* I think there was some mold or diesel trapped between the keel and the inner liner.* I found out from another source that there was a*space down deep in the keel that need to be cleaned but the boat was for sale at that point and it sold before I ever went that far.

As far as the Ozone and rubber, two thoughts come to mind.* One is that as Daddyo points out there is very little natural rubber in our boats and the other thought is that it would take a lot of Ozone as in constant exposure to really destroy any rubber in the boats today.

As with the Pure Ayre if you do not find the source then all is lost and I think that is why some folks have to keep using the Ozone generators over and over again.* They us it and it removes the smell but it returns because the true*source was not found or removed.* The same will happen with the Pure Ayre .
There is a product (I don't know the name) that is used by HVAC companies. It is only available to them. Our boat broker uses it and swears by it for "For Sale" boats that have fuel leaks AT A KNOWN location. You may be able to talk to a heating company and see if they will sell you a can.

Truly though I think the others are correct.
1. Find the leaks and eliminate them. I'm colorblind and can't see the red dye so I used a product called traceline http://www.tracerline.com/ Shine a UV light after using this and leaks JUMP out like you would not believe.

2. HOT water and a strong Bilge cleaner. Scrub the bilges down real good. I have hard 2-3" dia. pipes acting as chase ways between sections of the bilge. I used a hose and blasted the gunk out that was hiding inside. Next time I'll find a brush that fits and run it through as well.

3. Once it's all dry, if your bilge is like mine (painted any dark color) paint as much as you can white to make any new stains JUMP out at you.

4. Replace fabrics and cushions.

5. Some woods seem to absorb diesel to the point where it just will not clean out. I've seen some Oak and especially walnut where the internal oils seem to react with the Diesel and create a whole new smell that is really unpleasant. Some woods will create mold spores from diesel exposure. This is one of those problem areas where you are going to have to make you own decision. All I can suggest is to try your best to clean it and if it does not work then consider replacements. Usually though, cabinets, furniture and walls are finished and the problem is at the surface and can be cleaned. Mostly it's the drawers and other unfinished or lightly finished pieces that sometimes just need to be replaced.

Wood even finished wood still has exposed pours. The problem is in that the oil combines with small dust particles and sticks inside the pours. That needs to be removed. And the method used will depend on location, surface area and finish used. This topic is too expansive for an email thread but if it were me Id first start with a strong solution of Murphys Oil soap, HOT water and a soft bristled scrub brush. If that doesnt work then Id go talk to your local (HIGH quality) paint and decorating store if possible bring them a sample.

-- Edited by carvendive on Friday 17th of December 2010 09:52:50 AM
JD is right...No matter what method you use to eliminate odor, if you don't find and remove ALL the source, it will not work. Retail ozone generators don't work because people use 'em as an alternative to cleaning the bilge...they can't produce enough ozone to destroy the source of odor. Otoh, cleaning the bilge--really CLEANING it instead of only dumping something into the primordial soup and calling it done--would eliminate the need for an ozone "air freshener."* The most overlooked part of bilge cleaning is a thorough rinse...flushing ALL the dirty water out.* You wouldn't just dump some detergent into a sinkful of dirty dishwater, scrub a bit--or worse, just slosh it around--and the just pull the plug and expect to end up with a clean sink...but that's how most bilges are cleaned.* And then people blame the cleaning product when odor returns in a short time.

I've never confirmed a single PureAyre failure--or even only partial success--that wasn't a result of failure to find and eliminate the source.

PureAyre will not damage any surface or material that water won't damage...if it can get wet, PureAyre won't harm it. It's expensive enough that you don't want to dilute it...remove any standing water and apply only to surfaces that are dry, or at least only damp.

Ozone is not only damage to rubber, but also plastics and is also highly corrosive...and metal IS still used in boats. However, it's YOUR boat...so whatever floats it for you is fine with me.

-- Edited by HeadMistress on Friday 17th of December 2010 10:08:51 AM
Well I just got back from the local petco store....they had pure ayre in stock...usually $20 a bottle- on sale for $2 a bottle! I bought 3!! :)
Go to Odorxit.com* (disclaimer: I have no interest in this company or it's products) and look up diesel odors...follow the instructions or call Martin, the owner, and speak with him.* When we bought Victoria we had a problem with hidden mildew and mildew odors that came from places we could not physically reach to clean or apply mildew sprays.* Martin sold us some products that worked like magic!* After following the directions he gave us, the smell was gone in a week that we had fooled around trying to eliminate for about two months.* I recently referred a friend to them that had a problem with smells after he had a pest problem (no, you don't want the details) at a rental unit he owns, and Martin solved the problem quickly for him too.
The Ozone Generators will work. The cheapest way, is go to the Dollar Gen Store and get 3-4 sm box's of Bounce Dryer sheets. Just open them, don't pull any out, put 2-3boxes in the upper part of the boat and one in the engine rm.
Change about every 3 months.
Island Gyspy
Does "hull liner" absorb diesel smell to a great extent? That's that fuzzy stuff they put in the fwd end of boats in the 60s and early 70s that was a bit like carpet. Turned the fwd berth into a bit of a padded cell.
I"ve come down sorta hard on some here that hawk their wares on this forum and you may have read some of my barking. If you have (or haven't) I want to personally say I think you are a very nice element to have here on the forum. Much of the time you hang your shingle out but you keep the promotional stuff to a level that your presence here is basically all positive. You join in discussions and fun bantering as well so I hope you are a permanent person here on the forum. I encourage you to become a force in discussions that transcend sanitation however I hope I never have to tell my wife I've been chatting w a girl on the forum that I've never seen wearing anything but panties.
for those that use ozone machines...do you turn them on and leave the boat for a few hours or can you stay on board?
Thanks very much for the kind words, Eric...I do appreciate 'em! However, I guess I need to make it clear that I don't have any wares any more...haven't had since I sold my product line to Raritan 1999. I don't even sell my own book...I get a whopping $2/copy royalty from my publisher. And while owners, boat builders and dealers do occasionally hire me to survey, troubleshoot and sometimes even to completely redesign sanitation systems and solve odor problems, and bring me to rendezvous to conduct seminars, I don't actively solicit those jobs. I'm here 'cuz I enjoy solving problems. And when it comes to products and equipment, I have no axe to grind whatever...I just "call 'em as I see 'em." :)

However, it occurs me that it might be kinda hard for some of y'all to take a 2 yr old wearing nothing but a diaper very seriously!
" it occurs me that it might be kinda hard for some of y'all to take a 2 yr old wearing nothing but a diaper very seriously!"
I just about said as much last week*** ..exact words I had in mind.
So you're retired and have lots of time to chat w us old salts eh? Good.
Sounds like a trip to Petco is on my agenda.* I remember reading the instructions that came with my PSS Dripless Shaft Seal and they said exposure to ozone will cause the rubber bellows to weaken and crack. I have an ozone generator I used in a stinky basement- until my wife told me it is not good to breath ozone. I tried it on the boat and I admit they work but too many issues- corrosion,health,PVC damage so its just sitting in the garage for now.** So I really cleaned the bilge- redid the fuel system and holding tank and lines, now I am 95% better in terms of bilge odors.* I think I will get some purearye and spray the old acoustic tiles in the engine room and the soft goods in the living spaces.** Thanks for all the info.

John P
Island Gypsy 32*
#25* "Adagio"*
Toms River* NJ
For anyone planning on painting a surface to seal it because of odors, "KLITZ" is a primer made for this purpose and it works well. It is sold in paint stores and home centers.

Obviously, this would be only part of a solution.
** Mr. rwidman.* Perhaps you mean KILZ?*
** Mr. Old Stone.* No offence intended. Just the turn of a phrase.* Have a little "Sympathy for the Devil".
Um, RT, yes, I do believe he meant to say KILZ!

We too had a stinky diesel boat. The engine leaked, the diesel stove leaked, there was oil all over the engine compartment, the tanks leaked. When I think back on it I wonder why I bought it. Guess the brain???? wasn't thinking too clearly, all those fumes.

Well, it's gone now. The only time recently , 2 yrs ago, was when my injection pump decided it need a bit of work and decided to unload some fuel into the bilge.

We didn't know about Purayre so you have an advantage. You will get it. but as Peggy suggested you may have to spray everything.

Good luck and happy spraying.
RT Firefly wrote:

** Mr. rwidman.* Perhaps you mean KILZ?*
** Mr. Old Stone.* No offence intended. Just the turn of a phrase.* Have a little "Sympathy for the Devil".
Yep.* Last time I recommended it, I looked on the can in the garage.* I should have done it this time also.

After much thought, reading, and investigation of the smell in my boat, we have determined itis diesel. There are no leaks, but the fuel tanks were replaced a year or two prior to us buying it. So, i think there was an issue that was never fully addressed. We are in the process of cleaning the bilge thoroughly and have ordered two gallons of Pureayre along with the fogger. We have stripped out all the linens, cushions, curtains, and clothes from the boat. They are currently airing out in the garage and this weekend we will be washing using some of the pureayre in the the machine and i will fog them in the dryer as well. We'll see how that goes! As far as the boat, once everything, and i mean everything, gets cleaned, we'll fog the entire boat with the pureayre. Wish us luck and I'll report back along the way.
The use of an ozone machine when done to an auto to clear cigar smoke works well.

Dealers seldom allow folks to sleep or live in their cars for days , so there are no health hazards.

After a good scrub , some folks will purchase bacteria built to eat oil to get the stuff scrubbing can never get.

Shop for oil eating bacteria on Google

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Diesel Smells

Tracy, when I replaced the fuel tanks in your boat, we also replaced all the feed lines between the tanks and filters as well as all those going to the fuel manifolds. We did not replace the cooper lines from the Racors to the twins or to the genny as they looked good. Never had any problem with diesel smalls even before I replaced the tanks. I don't know how old the cooper lines are but I would start by running a Klennex along every where you have access, especially along where the fuel lines are very close to the battery boxes. Also check all the fittings around the injector pump and the engine mounted fuel filters. After thing about this, I would not be surprised if some of the cooper lines are original but I'm sure your surveyor gave them a good look.

Good luck

Any idea if the tank supports were replaced? If wood they could have become a bit saturated with diesel prior to the tank change out
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